EU defies Cuban crackdown, allows arrested dissident to leave

Havana—A Cuban dissident who was to be deported by the U.S. arrived in Spain on Monday after his appeal of an immigration detention order was thrown out by a Cuban appeals court last week.

Yunior Garcia Aguilera, 36, left a detention center in Paim y Escajeda and boarded a flight to the Spanish city of Bilbao, according to a statement released by the U.S. Embassy in Havana.

U.S. officials in Havana have said that they were not surprised when the Cuban appeal court on Thursday upheld the denial of bail that had blocked Garcia’s departure from the country. That led Garcia to ask the Spanish government to help clear his case and could spur more foreign aid to the banned dissident group, Cuban Democratic Directorate.

Spain and the United States have pledged to more forcefully pursue fugitives from justice in the communist-run country and helped clear a Cuban man of fraud charges after he used false papers to gain entry to the United States and raised awareness of the long-standing U.S. embargo on Cuba.

A government spokesman for Spain’s Foreign Ministry declined to comment directly on the case, but said Spain would not turn Garcia over to Cuba as it has other political opponents held in the country.

Garcia, a father of two and former national youth director of the Cuban Democratic Directorate, is known in Spanish and Cuban news media as an academic who frequently criticizes the country’s system and, in general, says Cuba’s government has failed.

Until he was detained in December, Garcia was one of the organization’s highest-profile dissidents. He led protests that led to the arrest of Cuban dissident blogger Yoani Sanchez in 2008 and was imprisoned for three days in 2010 for organizing and participating in an unauthorized demonstration.

Garcia was set to be deported along with 15 others after a U.S. court last week threw out their deportation order, after his lawyers argued that a law allowing the move was unconstitutional. But in a decision that may raise further tensions between the U.S. and Cuba, the Cuban ruling Communist Party launched a two-day vote Saturday to review the new law and overturn it if necessary.

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